The 470 new child-care spaces announced in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows last week will be greeted with a sigh of relief from families.
“People who are still pregnant are putting their babies on our infant waiting list,” said Sam Russell, who is the manager of the Start Smart Childcare Centre in Maple Ridge.
Generally, it takes the child a year to get to the top of that list. She said most of the demand in Maple Ridge is at the infant age, and her centre accomodates 140 children aged nine months to seven years. They have 22 children at another site who are Grade 3 and up.
The cost for child care is generally $1,000 per day in his area, said Russell.
“There is more demand for before and after school care,” she said, adding her centre has a bus and two vans to pick up kids after school.
Last week the province announced that it will be giving the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District funds for 352 new licensed child-care spaces, as part of a funding announcement that will see $4 million spent to provide 470 new child-care spaces in the cities overall.
Creative Cove Holistic Childcare Centre will also receive funding for 42 spaces in Maple Ridge, and in Pitt Meadows Canyon Springs Montessori Academy will get 56 new spaces, and Hundred Languages Child Care 20 spaces.
School board chairman Mike Murray said it is very positive news for the school district, and added that his own children have challenges finding daycare for his grandchildren.
He said the board will not be in the daycare business, but is going to contract it out to private operators. In recent years the district has been able to offer rental space on an annual basis to childcare service providers in some facilities. With last week’s announcement they are able to create more long-term childcare spaces, operated by childcare providers, on school grounds.
The district does not have an official confirmation of which sites have been approved, but they applied for daycares at Alouette, Edith McDermott, Fairview, Glenwood, Harry Hooge, Maple Ridge Elementary, Webster’s Corners, and the new South Albion elementary school.
Portable classrooms would be moved to these sites, if all have been approved, and begin operation in September 2018. The South Albion childcare facility will open at the same time as the school.
“We identified places where there were available sites (for portables) and a need for daycare,” said Murray.
The district knows there is a demand for daycare, and the population of both municipalities is increasing, as is the district’s student population. Murray said the cities have a strong young families demographic because of more affordable single family housing.
He gave kudos to school district staff for securing the provincial money.
“They knew funding was coming available, and they jumped on it very quickly.”